Doug Dorsey is little more than half the man he was six months ago — and that’s a good thing.
Through daily exercise and a medically-supervised weight loss program at Kaiser Permanente’s Clovis Medical Office, the 53-year-old Coarsegold man lost more than 156 pounds in 28 weeks.
“When I started the program I weighed 363. I realized if I don’t do something now, I’m going to be in a world of hurt in a few years,” Dorsey said, noting his family has a history of high blood pressure and diabetes.
At 207 pounds, Dorsey no longer needs to take medication for high cholesterol and has converted from a “steak and potatoes guy” to one who enjoys fruits and vegetables. He also walks 13 to 16 miles each day.
“I didn’t start off walking 10 miles a day,” he said of his progression. “Just like anything else, you have to work up to it.”
Dorsey said the key to his success was finding a partner to keep him accountable. He paired up with Cheri Aitken, who is also enrolled Kaiser’s Medical Weight Management Program, and the two began texting each other the number of steps they had taken each day. It quickly turned into a competition to see who could walk the most.
The two now walk together and consistently meet each Wednesday to walk for three hours before their weekly weigh-in.
“We’ve just been pushing each other and helping each other through the whole thing, and it’s paid off,” Dorsey said.
Aitken joined the program when her doctor told her that her scoliosis was progressing and she was going to lose the ability to walk.
“I thought, ‘I am not going to be this weight and have my husband take care of me in a wheelchair,” she said. “I’m going to walk until I can walk no longer.
She started the program weighing 235 and has lost 65 pounds.
“Their goal for me is to lose 29 more pounds to be at 140 so that I can have a healthy BMI,” she said.
The Clovis woman said she has battled obesity since she was 8 years old and has “tried every diet out there.”
This time around, she has Dorsey — and her results — to motivate her.
“He keeps me going,” she said. “We’ve become like family.”
She walks six to eight miles per day and does a lot of housework to burn additional calories.
“I’ve been able to lower my cholesterol, I’ve been able to move a lot more and I have more energy,” Aitken said. “I can breathe better. When you’re overweight, it’s hard to breathe. You just don’t feel good. I feel a lot better, I can walk more and I feel better about myself. The whole thing has been a blessing.”
Aitken encourages other people to exercise more and to change the way they think about and interact with food. As a former addiction counselor, she realized that food can be an addiction as well.
“Think of it as a life change,” she said.
The fitting room used to be her nemesis — now she enjoys trying on clothes because they actually fit well. And gone are her days of hiding behind others during group photos.
“I take pictures now,” she said. “I never liked to be in front of a camera.”
Dorsey, who Aitken calls “the poster child for the program,” has surpassed his goal of getting down to 220 pounds; now he’s hoping to hit 199 pounds.
“I haven’t been 199 since junior high school,” he said. “Right now I’m 11 pounds lighter than I was when I graduated high school.”
He is legally disabled and has nerve damage in his back, but he has noticed countless changes in his lifestyle since losing the equivalent of an entire person.
“Just to be able to move around, pick things up, sit more comfortably in the car with that much weight lost, it just makes life so much easier,” he said. “And my doctor is ecstatic about it.”
Dorsey encourages everyone to incorporate walking in their day.
“You can do it,” he said. “Just get out and do a little bit each day. Your health is way worth it.”
The Medical Weight Management Program at Kaiser Permanente includes low-calorie meal replacements, medical monitoring and weekly group sessions for members. It’s a fee-for-service program not included in members’ health plans. Kaiser members can go to www.kphealthyweight.com for information.